Young woman is first to die from swine flu
Schools draw up plans to deal with outbreak
A young west of Ireland woman yesterday became the country's first swine flu fatality.
Her family are being given the anti-viral drug prophylaxis on the basis that her sister may have been exposed to the bug.
The woman is the first fatality from the virus H1N1 in the Republic since infections began three months ago.
She suffered from an underlying health condition and was being treated at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght, Dublin. She had been cared for in an individual room within the hospital from the time she was admitted on Monday. She died at 3pm yesterday.
The news came amid deepening concern about the Government's plans for dealing with the spread of the virus, especially when schools and colleges reconvene within the next month. But the public was last night reassured that the vast majority of people who contract swine flu will fully recover at home.
To date, 27 people have been hospitalised here with swine flu, with 18 remaining in hospital. These include three people being treated in intensive care units.
This week, the latest Health Service Executive (HSE) figures showed the overall number of people suspected of having the virus had dropped.
There have been more than 1,300 swine flu related deaths around the world with the total in the UK now standing at 36.
Yesterday, Dr John Devlin, deputy chief medical officer of Adelaide and Meath Hospital, said fatalities were always possible given the nature of the pandemic.
Michael Lyons, chief executive officer of the hospital, said there had been a suggestion that a family member of the victim may have been exposed to the bug.
Dr Lyons said: "The lady was admitted into the hospital with an underlying medical condition. She was diagnosed with swine flu yesterday and she succumbed to that tragically.
"She contracted the bug in the community. We do not know who she contracted it from. She had been out socially and she was not abroad."
Mr Lyons said all of her family have been tested for the flu and they have been given anti-viral drugs. Staff looking after her have also been given anti-viral drugs.
Dr Pat Doorley, the HSE's director of population health, said the woman's death was a tragedy, but he moved to reassure the public that most cases only show mild to moderate symptoms.
The hospital said it would not be providing any personal details in order to protect the confidentiality of the family, who asked for privacy.
They were described as "very traumatised, very distressed and very anxious for their privacy to be maintained".
"The hospital's influenza pandemic flu committee have put in place all necessary measures to ensure both the safety of other patients and staff within the hospital," the hospital said in an official statement.
Meanwhile, school managers and principals are drawing up their own advice to deal with swine flu before thousands of students return to their classes next month.
The Department of Education and Health websites contain detailed advice, but schools are demanding more "structured" information.
They want firm guidelines and step-by-step advice for staff in the event of an outbreak of swine flu in the classroom.
The Joint Managerial Body for secondary schools council, and the Irish Primary Principals Network are both aiming to draw up more specific information of their own.
The Catholic Primary School Managers Association said it is happy with the advice being issued, but it says real issues will only emerge once schools reopen.
Principals are also dealing with rumours that schools may not even be allowed to open this September.
"We haven't been given any guidance one way or another," said Coilin O Coigligh, principal of St Mary's Convent National School in Trim, Co Meath.
"We're all depending on getting some guidance from the department before September."
He said that installing anti-bacterial dispensers in classrooms would be a positive step.
Current advice from the Department of Education is that schools and colleges should continue to operate normally unless advised otherwise.